The Power of Goodbye – coping with grief

The Power of Goodbye – coping with grief

The Power of Goodbye

My life was so hectic when it happened.  I had a toddler and a newborn.  In many aspects that made it very difficult to deal with the grief because I honestly didn’t have time to deal with it. Perhaps for me, the grieving process was delayed. I can’t remember all the stages that the professionals speak of, but certainly denial, anger and acceptance are 3 of them. I also think in the first few weeks, maybe even months, your body protects you to a certain extent by going into shock. Unfortunately it can hit you like a tidal wave once the shock has worn off. Apart from the night he died, I couldn’t cry until the funeral and I couldn’t remember anything about him. I felt so guilty for not being able to cry but I realise now that it was because my body was in shock.

It would have been very easy to hide away but it’s not easy to constantly stay indoors with a young child and a baby. My Health Visitor was incredible – she contacted my antenatal group and asked them to support me.  Our group met up 2 or 3 times a week, which was a Godsend for me.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way.  I do believe that you shouldn’t rush it. There isn’t a timeline for dealing with it – it takes as long as it takes. It will be 6 years in July for me and there are still days that I end up in tears, maybe hearing a song or a memory that comes to me. Granted the days like that are a lot less and are normally around times like Birthdays, Anniversary’s, Christmas and New year. I think if you cry for a little bit and then get up and shake it off, then there’s no harm in that.

I had great support from friends and family. I’m not sure I could have survived without them. It is really really important to have people to lean on and it’s also important to have lots of different types of friends. I have ones that tried to force me to talk, ones that I knew I could just phone and, although they knew what was wrong, they never pushed me to talk but instead spoke of lots of other things.  They knew that I just needed to take my mind off everything. I have others that spoke constantly of him and other ones that refused to show a sad face and instead laughed about anything that could distract me. Most of my friends were a combination of all of the above which was fantastic.

After any death there are normally lots of visitors. The problems arise when people stop visiting so often for whatever reason. It’s easy to become isolated and lonely and it can be hard to push yourself to make an effort but it is also necessary to do that. It is important to maintain friendships, make sure you continue to surround yourself with people that support you and also make you happy.

I couldn’t stand food shopping to the point where I developed a slight fear of going because I kept unintentionally picking up things that he would have bought. We had to eat though so it was necessary.  I considered online shopping, which would have perhaps taken some stress off me, but I am actually glad I forced myself to go to the shops.  By doing that I think I stopped it becoming a bigger problem than it could have been.

Two things I hated were that certain people wouldn’t speak of him and wouldn’t even mention his name for fear of upsetting me. Even when I mentioned him, they wouldn’t get into a conversation about him. I felt like they were acting as though he hadn’t existed and I really struggled with that.  This was constant over the first year. I really wanted them to speak about him or at least mention his name because the other thing I hated was that my memory had gone completely blank. It was the weirdest thing but I couldn’t remember any of the happy times that we had. I only had the recent memory of the few awful weeks before he died. It took a long time and I mean at least a couple of years before I started to remember little things. Also some of my friends used to reminisce about stories of him and that helped bring things back to me.

No-one wants to be told that time is a great healer – especially when you’re hurting so much but it is actually the truth. You may never fully recover from the grief of losing a loved one but you will smile and laugh again and you will remember them with fondness. I honestly feel that a big part of me died that day and for the longest time I felt empty, all the dreams I had and all the things I wanted to do were no longer important to me. I felt like I was just existing from one day to another rather than living.

You asked how someone can stay strong but I don’t know if they have to stay strong. There is no shame or weakness in admitting that you need help/company/someone to talk to. I would say there is a point when you have to push yourself and you have to deal with it though. I think having my attention on my kids and having them with me was immense in helping me get through it. I walked for miles with them and I made sure that I did loads of things and went loads of places with them. Sitting at home alone would have been the worst thing I could have done. Talking is very important, whether it be in person, on the phone or on social networking – whatever works for you.

Before you can dust yourself down and start living again, which is a must, you need to accept that you will miss them. You  need to accept that you will feel hopeless, empty and at a loss but those are all natural feelings. Take time alone to deal with it but not too much. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good.  Find a release, whether it be fitness, talking, writing it all down or a new interest.

It has taken a long time and the pain of losing him is still very strong.  I know that he wouldn’t want me to live my life constantly wishing things were different, wishing he was still with me.  I know that he would be telling me to carry on, to enjoy my life and show our children all the love and happiness they deserve.  On the hard days I take comfort from this quote:

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Always remember – it is OK to cry.  That is the power of goodbye. 

For those of us on the other side –  how do we help a friend or family member who is experiencing a severe loss? Words often fail us. I have touched on gratitude in a few of my articles.  Focusing on the positives over the negatives most certainly helps our mental and physical health.  However, there are times that we do need to embrace sadness and cry. Grief is one of those times.  We can’t ignore the pain.   As friends and family, doing nothing at all for fear of doing the wrong thing is an option, but it is not a good one. Like depression, grief is something that we can never fully understand until we go through it ourselves. We need to ‘mourn with those who mourn’.

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People need to feel supported.  People need comforted.  People need love.  People grieving need help to learn how to laugh again.  They need people to listen and they need people to reminisce with.  In time they need help to start celebrating the person they are grieving for.  They need the opportunity to think fondly of them.  They need to remember how blessed they are to have had that person in their life: a person that inspired them, a person they truly loved.  A person they loved so much that the power of goodbye ‘hit them like a tidal wave’.  A person that will live on through those that loved them and those they touched whilst here.

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I am currently training for my first marathon and working hard to raise awareness on a number of topics that are extremely sensitive.  My fear is that we often bottle feelings up, especially in the UK.  I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has been brave enough to help me raise awareness.  I am overwhelmed by the response and one thing that is very prominent from my work so far is that talking helps.  Let’s keep talking x

For similar articles see:

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12 Comments

  1. Danna
    March 17, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    Great peice , I really recognise and empathise with this , there is no wrong way to grieve , it’s just what it is, sometimes I can go weeks & weeks other times it’s on my mind constantly, I’m blessed in so many ways and feel able to articulate my sadness when it hits me but realise many many people can’t. What used to hurt me the most was people changing the subject when I brought it up
    Really love reading your stuff Jo
    Xx

    • March 17, 2016 / 3:42 pm

      Thanks so much. I really hope it gets more people talking. Taboo subjects are tricky to cover but I really feel that we need to keep talking as hard as it can be xxx

  2. March 17, 2016 / 5:07 pm

    This had me in tears. I think it is really difficult for anyone to understand the overwhelming effect grief has without having experienced it. It’s like carrying around a heavy package with you every day and sometimes your grasp slips and the package cracks open and takes you right back to the rawness of it all. Its been just over a year since I lost my mum and I think I’m still in shock and trying hard to not let it overwhelm me. My mum had a saying on her office wall, ‘It is okay to be sad, its okay to cry, just don’t let the sadness overtake your life.’ xxx

    • March 17, 2016 / 5:44 pm

      I am so sorry to hear that. I really hope this post helps to give people an insight so that they can be a rock and comfort for their loved ones who need them xxx

  3. Ellie Fuller
    March 17, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    Great article. Beautifully written. I will pass onto my friend who recently lost her husband.
    X

    • March 17, 2016 / 10:17 pm

      Thanks so much Ellie, am so sorry to hear about your friend xx

  4. March 19, 2016 / 12:11 am

    Wow, when you mentioned you had trouble grocery shopping it just broke my heart, it was just so relatable. Excellent piece

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